The Fool’s Journey

April 1, 2012 – May 20, 2012
at Curious Matter
April 14 – July 1, 2012
at Proteus Gowanus

The Fool’s Journey is a collaboration between Curious Matter in Jersey City, NJ and Proteus Gowanus in Brooklyn, NY. The exhibition will be presented in two parts concurrently at Curious Matter and Proteus Gowanus. The exhibition is a complement to the yearlong, multi-disciplinary inquiry hosted by Proteus Gowanus on the theme of Migration and will be exhibited in parallel to its Future Migration show, exploring where we may end up as we embark into the future.

“Every voyage is a journey…. who knows/if the old men/who shine shoes on the Staten Island Ferry/carry their world in a box slung across their shoulders/if they share their lunch/with birds/flying back and forth/upon an endless journey/if they ever find their way/back home.”

Audre Lorde, excerpt from “A Trip on the Staten Island Ferry”


The Fool’s Journey

And so we begin…

The most courageous part of any undertaking is always the beginning. Making the difficult decision to begin pushes aside the doubts and fears of what may lie ahead and calms the expectation of failure. This energy of beginning is the Fool who sets out into an unknown to discover whatever he may find. In the tarot, the Fool is represented by the numeral 0: nothing, emptiness, void. The fool is a blank slate without knowledge, an acolyte who is seeking. He starts out penniless and ragged, carrying all of his meager possessions with him; a young man, just leaving home to make his way in the world. He is a naïf full of dreams, willing to let the Universe show him the way.

Claire Watson, Circumferee, 2007, Leather, porcelain doll parts, wire, sawdust, 7 X 7 X 4 inches

The labyrinth was a way for many cultures to either symbolically replicate the Fool’s journey, or to accelerate the journey by walking through it. Cat Jensen gives us the ancient magic of the spiral as the map of our inner travels with her woodcut. While Dave Rittenger shows us the exhilaration and danger of making that first leap of faith with Send in the Troops #4.

Potential is the theme of Gilda Pervin’s swirling sculpture, Split Ends. It is the potential of chaos as the undifferentiated mass gradually becoming organized. With Raymond E. Mingst’s work Kinêsis/Energeia Drawing, we have the object itself as a completed idea, but also the possibility of it becoming something else. Like our Fool, Kinêsis/Energeia Drawing is about the future and how it could exist there.

In Medieval symbolism, the Fool is the Wayfarer, who has put aside the ways of the world and has taken on the wimple of salvation. Hieronymus Bosch depicts him with the hat of a tradesman which he holds in his hand, while he wears on his head the veil of the ecclesiast. Throughout the painting the symbolism shows the duality of the spiritual versus the secular: the hat or the veil, the slipper or the shoe, the house of ill repute or the heavenly pasture. The Fool’s Journey is about choices and where those choices lead us. Melissa Stern brings us the concept of choice with her Fool’s Paradise, an everyman in the middle of choosing between here and there. Lasse Antonsen’s New Bedford (M. Goulart) and Fall River 2 (Estrella) get more specific with his take on immigration and his own understanding of choosing one place for another.

Marianne McCarthy, Eyewater, 2012, Digital pigment print, 12 X 12 inches.

The Journey can take on many forms, not just a physical movement from place to place, but also the search for intellectual or spiritual knowledge. The alchemists saw their search for the Philosopher’s Stone as a journey of the intellect through study and experiment and as a journey of the spirit. Progressing through the Great Work would bring about a depth of understanding about the nature of matter and God’s creation of the Universe. Marianne McCarthy hints at this Great Work through her Eye Water and Raising The Vapor.

Matthew Jensen also explores esoteric knowledge with 12 Mile Rockaway Walk. What is it we have come to understand at the end: the folly of man with his environment, the transitional nature of joy, the disillusionment of loss, or just a tour of trash on the beach?

Garric Simonsen, A Design to Help Get You Back On Your Feet, 2011, Dry-point, graphite powder and wax on wood panel, 24 X 24 inches.

This brings us to the idea that the Fool’s Journey implies a progression, as Charles Printz Kopelson with Homage to Thomas Cole: Course of Empire and R. Wayne Parsons with Nocturne 3 infer. With electric colors and a graffiti line, Kopelson takes on the whole of civilization from our animal beginnings through the height of our social and cultural achievements and the destruction of it all. He leaves us with the question: is progress cyclical rather than ever refining toward perfection? Parsons takes on art history and asks whether there is a progression from primitive art, to realism to abstraction. Or, does every age create the images it needs for its culture, and is the notion of development from simple to sophistication an illusion?

It is this illusion of progress that is taken on more directly by Peter H. Everett’s video, Climb. Our Wayfarer is caught in an endless loop and although he expends a lot of effort, this modern day Sisyphus will never reach his goal, because there is no goal, no end,  just the endless cycle.

Ari Richter, The Cheekbiter III, 2011, Artist’s cheek skin on egg shell, 2 X 1.5 X 1.5 inches.

Perhaps the only real progress is what Ari Richter gives us with The Cheekbiter III and The Longest Toe Nail in the World. Utilizing his own actual tissue and nail parings in these sculptural works, Richter conveys the slow, incremental build up of the growth of the individual within their own shell or skin.

What does lie at the end of our Journey? Ian Addison Hall takes the time to reflect back on where we have been in mountain/cactus and relives the journey in memory. In the tarot we die and our spirit is resurrected to become one with the Universe. For Bosch, at the end of the heavenly pasture he has put a gallows. But, is death the end for Bosch? Perhaps not, because beyond the gallows there are mountains along the horizon. Bosch seems to be hinting that, like the tarot there may be something more after death. Louise Barry’s America’s Wonderlands, through the crumpled and split manipulation of her photograph, depicts the landscape as our meeting with the universal.

The Fool’s journey can belong to the microcosm or the macrocosm. We travel it from moment to moment or over a lifetime. It can occur as an inward or an outward manifestation. In all of its permutations it is the journeying that is most important. It does not matter where we ultimately end, what matters is that we have changed from the experience; that somehow from each small or large event we have come away with a little more wisdom. Hopefully, each work in this exhibition has served to bring you a little further along your personal path.



Into the Future

The Fool’s Journey at Proteus Gowanus

Where would we be without the fools among us?  The Fool, childlike and curious, eagerly embarks on new experience without hesitation, regardless of future difficulties. The Fool’s motion is one way, retrospect-free, going ever forward.

Compliments of Curious Matter, the Fool has come to Proteus Gowanus to participate in Future Migration, the third exhibition of our yearlong theme, Migration. We know the Fool will be comfortable here. For nine months of every year, we play with a central theme, welcoming collaborators to join us in a journey that is never mapped, meanders through metaphor, exposing unexpected meaning–just as the Fool does, without fanfare or vanity. The Migration series has thus far considered the journeys of humans, animals, objects, plants and products. As always, we include work from many disciplines and in many media: art, artifacts, books, performance, film, lecture and long walks in the park.

For this exhibit, from April 14 to July 1, 2012, we are delighted to be joined by Curious Matter with The Fool’s Journey, lending a tone both cautionary and generative to our collective imaginings of what is to come. As they consider the metaphor and mystery of venturing forth, a journey documented in these pages, Proteus will add specific speculations on the destination, including musings on the future of individual identity, space colonization, Antarctic warfare and post-human evolutions. To view these works and more, come visit us in our alleyway by the Gowanus Canal.

For most, the present is thick with questions of the future. The only thing we know for sure is that the future–whether of nations and borders, economic systems, travel, the natural world or even the very notion of “natural”–is uncertain. Join us!